Over the past several months, the Archdiocese of Denver has been engaged in a discernment process as part of the Synod on Synodality that Pope Francis opened last year. “Synod on Synodality” is really just a fancy way of articulating the Holy Father’s desire for the universal Church to listen to the Holy Spirit collectively and discern how the Lord is calling the Church to mission today.
Here in the archdiocese, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has written and spoken extensively during this same period on the new reality facing the Church today; namely, that we no longer live in an age of Christendom but instead are in the midst of a new apostolic age. In light of this, the discernment process at the local level has been primarily focused on how the Church of northern Colorado is being called to mission, with two goals in mind: to re-acquire a biblical worldview, and to listen to God.
We heard the kerygma re-proclaimed during the archdiocesan-wide retreat in Advent, then each parish held listening sessions where parishioners prayed together and discussed three questions about mission. All of this culminated in the Archdiocesan Discernment Event March 25-27, where representatives from across the archdiocese gathered to pray and discern together using what the Lord had already revealed through the process.
The fruits of that gathering will likely continue to be revealed over time, but for now, they were borne in the form of clarity on four primary missions: the disciple, the family, the parish and the greater archdiocese. While these themes will be developed more in an upcoming letter that can be read at synod.archden.org, here are the main messages we heard in our communal discernment.
Mission of the Disciple
Our first mission is to divine intimacy which we participate in through prayer and the sacraments.
Take seriously that we have personal responsibility for the mission to evangelize those closest to us: our family, neighbors, and coworkers.
God’s plan means that I personally need to grow in truth, virtue, and holiness, and that I need God’s healing in my life to do this.
Our apostolic age needs lives characterized by public witness; we need to be intentional about sharing the fruits of abiding in the Lord which are love, joy, boldness, courage and conviction.
Discipleship needs communion, unity and community. We are not islands, not individuals but members of the Body of Christ.
Like St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10) as disciples.
“Christ called to himself twelve men” and begins his public ministry with a community (Mk 3:13). Our calling, our growth, does not happen in isolation, it happens in the communion of the Church.
Mission of the Family
Embrace the messiness and suffering of the family. Every family needs accompaniment of some sort.
Help the family to encounter healing and forgiveness.
Recognize that parents are the primary formators and educators of their children. There is a desire to receive formation on how to do this well.
There is a need for strengthening and clarifying of what it means to be Father and Mother, especially in this apostolic age.
Identity is received, for good or bad, in the relationships that exist within families.
Mission of the Parish
God is asking our parishes to become more welcoming. A welcoming like the Father of the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15. A home where people are expected and awaited, seen, known and loved. This is accomplished through personal invitation and accompaniment. We propose, like Jesus did to Andrew and John, that seekers “come and see” where Christ is staying (Jn 1:39).
Jesus prayed that all may be one so that the world would know that he was sent by the Father (Jn 17). Our parishes need to be actively working towards a supernatural unity and healing between Catholics of different language/cultural backgrounds, liturgical expressions, political affiliations, ministries, etc. Healing is an avenue to unity.
Parishes should be a place where disciples are equipped to live their mission and vocation. (Eph 4)
The parish doesn’t exist for its own sake but is sent out for the sake of the broader community. We need to reach out with the Good News, with the treasure we have, and share it with those who have fallen away, with the poor, and with the broader community.
The Eucharist is the soul of the parish. As Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “You will win the war before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Mission of the Church/Archdiocese of Denver
The Church is called to help heal our wounds, whether caused by the Church or not, by facilitating an encounter with Christ the Divine Physician.
The Archdiocese of Denver is called to be an agent of unity, manifesting the unity of the mystical body of Christ. She is especially called to help unify the divides between our diverse languages and cultures.
Clarity of communication about our mission, more initiatives for communal prayer, and healing of wounds will all help to bring about this unity.